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Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420

Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420

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Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420

434 pages
3 heures
Feb 29, 2016


A history of all four generations of compact Jaguar, and their Daimler equivalents, tracing the gradual development of Sir William Lyons' original idea over a period between 1955 and 1969. From the powerful, luxury MK 1 and 2 cars to the 4.2-litre 420, this book covers design, development and styling; special-bodied variants; racing performance; buying and owning a compact Jaguar saloon model and, finally, specifications and production figures. This history of all four generations of compact Jaguar and their Daimler equivalents manufactured between 1955 to 1969 will be of great interest to all motoring and Jaguar enthusiasts. Topics covered include buying and owning a Jaguar saloon model; design, development and styling; the cars' competition successes and rare special-bodied models. Superbly illustrated with 208 colour photographs.
Feb 29, 2016

À propos de l'auteur

James Taylor is a writer and co-host of Bros Watch PLL Too, the #1 Pretty Little Liars podcast on the internet. His first memory of mystery stories was staying up all night when he was seven reading Howliday Inn. In another life, he was a professional gambler. These days, he's content to pass his time in cafes and multiplexes. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420 - James Taylor



When Jaguar introduced their new compact saloons in 1955, the company was enjoying an unprecedented wave of success. Most important in that success had been the US market, where the marque had been able to exploit the postwar fascination for European cars that would also make the fortunes of MG, Triumph and others.

To a considerable extent, that success helped to shape the basic parameters of the new compact saloons. Despite the radically new (for Jaguar) engineering that went into them, they had to conform to public expectations of the Jaguar marque. And those public expectations were inordinately high in 1955.

Jaguar’s range for the year that preceded the compacts’ introduction consisted of two basic models. One was the Mk VIIM saloon and the other was the XK120 sports car, available in either open or closed forms. The Mk VIIM was a large luxury saloon, offering spacious accommodation with a traditionally British wood and leather interior, while the XK120 was a stylish and charismatic two-seater. In many respects, they were as different as chalk and cheese and yet they had three very important factors in common: pricing, performance and good looks. It was these three characteristics that defined the Jaguar marque for the motoring public of 1955.

Looking positively benign as an older man in the 1950s, William Lyons (who would be knighted in 1956) still had a keen eye for a good shape.

The 1948 XK120 sports model was an oustanding success for Jaguar and was the first production car to have the company’s own XK engine. The curvaceous shape was superb, as this photograph shows, and the wheel spats are a very modern touch.

It had always been Jaguar’s policy to keep prices as low as possible, both in order to undercut competitors and to promote an image of value for money. In this, the Mk VIIM and XK120 were fully representative of the Jaguar tradition. The Mk VIIM was essentially a ‘poor man’s Bentley’, and in 1954 its basic retail price, inclusive of taxes, was £1,616. The cheapest Bentley then available cost around three times as much. As for the XK120, which was similarly priced, its most obvious rivals came from the likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin, and all of them were vastly more expensive than the Jaguar.

High performance was also a Jaguar trademark, and the company had furthered its image in that field with a spectacular series of successes in international motor sport during the early 1950s. First had come the C-type sports racers (strictly known as XK120C models), which had won the Le Mans 24-Hours road race in 1951 and again in 1953. Then in 1954 had come the D-type, which won at Le Mans in the early summer of 1955. But perhaps the most important aspect of these and other sporting victories, as far as Jaguar customers were concerned, was that the sports racers depended on race-tuned derivatives of the same engine that powered both the Mk VIIM saloons and the XK120 sports cars.

That engine – the XK twin overhead camshaft 6-cylinder – had first appeared in 1948 and would not finally go out of production until more than forty years later. In road-going 3.4-litre form, it endowed the big Mk VIIM saloon with a top speed of 103mph (165km/h) while the XK120 laid claim to 120mph (193km/h) or more. For the early 1950s, this kind of performance was the stuff of which dreams were made: the average family saloon of the time struggled to reach 70mph (112km/h).

Both the XK120 and the Mk VIIM (announced as a Mk VII in 1950 and newly updated in 1954) were strikingly styled cars. Bulky though it undoubtedly was, the saloon looked elegant thanks to its graceful curves and sweeping wing-lines. It had a special sort of presence that was lacking in other saloons of its day, and when parked alongside the rather upright Bentleys and Armstrong Siddeleys of the early 1950s, it appeared low and streamlined. By contrast, it looked upright and traditional next to contemporary American machinery, but that very conservatism (a distinctly British characteristic) distinguished it from the crowd and endeared it to discerning Americans.

As for the XK120, its long and low lines – reminiscent of the sleek pre-war BMW sports cars – stood out in any company. Once again, graceful curves and sweeping wing-lines were the distinguishing features, and the Jaguar could hold its head up in the company of any fashionable Italian exotics from the styling houses of Pininfarina, Vignale, Touring or Zagato. Across the Atlantic, the only additional competition for the XK120 came from the Chevrolet Corvette, which at this stage did not have the attractive lines for which the marque would later become known.


Styling more than any other factor was essential to Jaguar’s roots. Back in the early 1920s, William Walmsley had moved his small motorcycle sidecar business from Stockport to Blackpool where he had met and entered into partnership with the younger William Lyons. Walmsley’s sidecars were notable for their elegant design, and the enthusiastic Lyons, who had served an apprenticeship with Crossley Motors in Manchester before joining the sales staff of a Sunbeam dealership in Blackpool, developed his eye for a good line from Walmsley’s example. In 1922 they jointly formed the Swallow Sidecar Company, and their business was so successful that they were able as early as 1927 to branch out into making car bodies.

William Lyons was a keen motorcyclist in his youth. This photograph shows him in the 1920s astride a Harley-Davidson registered in his native town of Blackpool.

These car bodies had styling that was as distinctive and elegant as the sidecars, but Swallow stuck to a policy of offering bodies for relatively cheap cars. So, while many coachbuilders preferred to work on the grand luxury chassis whenever they could, Swallow instead provided special coachwork for possibly the most mundane chassis of them all, the little Austin Seven. This made their cars attractive to the customer who could not afford an expensive luxury car but nevertheless wanted something that stood out from the crowd of everyday models. The origins of the market positioning that Jaguar cars would later adopt probably lay in this early experience.

The Swallow sidecars had a distinctive elegance about them and soon gained a good reputation.

The next stage was a move into car bodywork. This 1929 advertisement is for the Austin Swallow – based on a cheap everyday chassis but adding an element of style not otherwise available.

There were closed bodies by Swallow, too. This is a 1931 example, again on an Austin chassis, and shows the two-tone paintwork and V-screen typical of the breed. SANDRA FAUCONNIER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

One important factor in Swallow’s success was pricing, and by adopting quite sophisticated production processes the company was able to minimize the cost of making its bodies. So it was that, when the growth of their business forced them to seek larger premises, Walmsley and Lyons looked carefully at how best to use this new opportunity to minimize costs further. One overhead they had been unable to control was the cost of transporting chassis to Blackpool from the Midlands heart of the motor industry; and they had already recognized that it was easier to recruit skilled staff in the Midlands than in Blackpool. The solution was therefore obvious: Swallow would move to the Midlands. And so the company moved to premises at Holbrook Lane, in Coventry’s Foleshill district, in the autumn of 1928.

Expansion continued. Lyons introduced further new production methods and before Christmas 1928 had pushed the rate of production up from twelve car bodies a week to fifty. The sidecar activities meanwhile continued. In 1929, Swallow took a stand at the Olympia Motor Show, and that year they also began to work on a wider range of chassis, including Fiat, Swift and – most notably – Standard. From early 1931 there were Swallow bodies for the Wolseley Hornet with its pioneering ‘small six’ engine, too. In all cases, their combination of attractive lines and striking paintwork completely transformed the perpendicular look of the originals, and created cars that were genuinely different from others available in Britain. Mechanically, however, they were unmodified. The next logical step was for Swallow to start building cars that were mechanically as well as bodily different from anything that could be bought elsewhere, and in 1931 they took that step.

The second-series SS 1 coupé introduced for 1933 had much better-balanced lines than the earlier model of the same name. Those are of course dummy hood irons; rear-seat passengers could not see much out of the car!


The new models that Swallow announced in October 1931 are often described as the company’s first complete cars, although to call them that is really overstating the case. Standard, content with the special bodies Swallow had been offering on their chassis since 1929, had agreed to supply Swallow with their 16hp (2-litre) and 20hp (2.5-litre) 6-cylinder engines, fitted at the Standard works into a special chassis designed to meet Swallow’s requirements. The key to this chassis was that it was much lower than those normally fitted to saloons of the period, which enabled Swallow to clothe it with rakish new sporting bodywork.

It was William Lyons, always the front man at Swallow, who had secured Standard’s agreement, and it was he who had persuaded them to allow the new car to be badged as an SS. Those letters probably stood for Standard Swallow, but their real significance was that Swallow now had a marque of their own. The SS1, as the 6-cylinder car was called, went on sale in 1932, and was then accompanied by a much smaller new model based on the Standard Little Nine chassis with its 4-cylinder 1-litre engine. Even though this was more in the vein of Swallow’s earlier rebodying efforts, it was also badged as an SS – in fact as an SS2 – and this development made fairly clear what Swallow’s next move was likely to be.

The company name had already changed twice, the original Swallow Sidecar Company becoming the Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Company in 1926 and then the Swallow Coachbuilding Company a year later. From October 1930 it had become a limited company and now it was only a matter of time before the name changed yet again to reflect the nature of the new business. In 1933 Lyons and Walmsley set up a new company with the name of SS Cars Ltd and at the end of July 1934 they purchased Swallow.

The SS Jaguars were based on Standard running-gear, but had low-slung and stylish bodywork. This 1935 example was photographed at the Salon Privé event at Syon Park in 2014.

From then on, Lyons’ primary objective was to establish the company as a credible builder of complete cars. Styling remained important and the later SS models were offered with a variety of attractive bodies. Road performance to match that styling was also important. SS improved the lukewarm performance of the early SS2 models as soon as they were able by fitting larger and more powerful new engines provided by Standard. A gradual process of redesign made the SS1 and SS2 much better cars all round and by 1935 SS had become established as a small-volume maker of stylish sporting cars costing rather less than their exotic looks suggested.


By this stage, high performance had become a very important ingredient in Lyons’ vision of SS Cars. As Standard had nothing in the offing that was likely to fit his future requirements, he turned to tuning expert Harry Weslake and asked him to develop the big Standard engine for more power. Weslake’s solution was to redesign the top end of the engine with a new cylinder head and overhead valves in place of side valves. Lyons somehow managed to persuade Standard to manufacture this revised engine exclusively for SS Cars.

However, Lyons wanted more. The new engine needed to go with a new body, and for the new body it would be necessary to design a new chassis. The bodywork was something he was more than capable of tackling himself, but there was no one at the Foleshill works who had any experience of designing chassis. This was why SS Cars took on their first proper engineer in April 1935. William Heynes, who joined the company from Humber, was later to become a central figure in the Jaguar story.

Stunningly attractive, this was the first of the SS Jaguar saloons. This example dates from 1937.

The new car was ready in October 1935. Seeking to give it a new name, Lyons had settled for Jaguar, after the First World War Armstrong Siddeley aero engine that had interested him many years earlier. And so the new SS Jaguars went on sale for 1936, a range of sleek sports saloons and open four-seat tourers. In addition, there was a new short-wheelbase two-seat sports model called the SS90 – an important model historically because it was the first proper sports car from the company. The saloons could be obtained with either 1.5-litre or 2.5-litre engines, the smaller one actually having a capacity of 1608cc and being a production Standard side-valve 4-cylinder, while the larger engine had 2664cc and the Weslake overhead valve arrangement. The open cars, meanwhile, came only with the larger engine. Although both SS1 and SS2 models remained available alongside the newcomers, their production would soon end.

The optional leaping Jaguar mascot is in evidence on this 1938 SS Jaguar saloon, photographed by the auction house Historics at one of their sales. The discreet indicator light visible in the wheel arch was not an original feature.

Towards the end of 1935, William Walmsley left SS Cars and joined a caravan manufacturer in Coventry. The split appears to have been amicable and probably resulted from Walmsley’s desire to avoid the complications and stresses of running a large company such as SS Cars seemed set to become. With his departure, SS cars was floated as a public company and thereafter was obliged to have its own board of directors who met at regular intervals. However, the board meetings of SS Cars Ltd were more of a legal formality than anything else: in reality, Lyons now took over the running of the company.

Introduced in 1938, the SS 100 had the 3½-litre engine in a lightweight structure and could reach 104mph (167km/h).

The SS Jaguars were further improved for the 1937 model season but the major changes came that autumn when the 1938 models were announced. For a start, the traditional coachbuilt bodies with their wooden frames had been replaced by all-steel bodyshells of similar appearance, which were both lighter and cheaper to manufacture. These had been joined by a new wooden-framed drophead coupé body which added to the SS marque’s upper-crust pretensions. The 1.5-litre engine, too, had been reworked and now sported overhead valves, giving the engine much more performance than the old side-valve engine.

In addition, there was a sleek new sports tourer called the SS100, available with either the 2.5-litre engine or a new 3.5-litre type, which could also be had in the saloons and drophead coupés. Although this was in fact yet another development of the Standard 6-cylinder, and was once again made exclusively for SS Cars by Standard, it was still the closest the Foleshill company had yet come to an engine they might call their own.


By the time war broke out in 1939, the SS Jaguars had already established a formidable reputation. At home, they had been eagerly adopted by the sporting fraternity and there was even an SS Car Club for enthusiastic owners. Looking back rather wistfully in 1944, Montague Tombs of The Autocar magazine described the SS cars of the late 1930s as ‘capable of providing an outstanding performance on the road, and offering exceptional value’. Yet the SS Jaguars were by no means common: by the time the Foleshill factory ceased car manufacture and focused on the production of military materiel in 1940, just 14,383 had been built in five seasons. Of the earlier SS1 and SS2 models, there had been no more than 6,029 examples.

When the war came, SS Cars Ltd was poised on the brink of further expansion. Production had increased enormously to meet the rising demand during 1938–39, and 1939 had seen a record output of 5,320 cars. Most popular of all was the steel-bodied 1.5-litre saloon, which accounted for over 60 per cent of that total. During 1939, William Lyons had bought Motor Panels, one of SS Cars’ suppliers of body parts. His intention had been that SS Cars should be able to manufacture their own bodies entirely in-house, which would have minimized costs and given the company greater flexibility in the manufacture of their bodies.

However, the expansion never took place. Like every other motor manufacturer, SS Cars was obliged to respond to the needs of the armed services. The Foleshill plant started to turn out aircraft parts, took on aircraft repair work, and in 1944 designed and built some experimental lightweight miniature jeeps intended to be carried in transport aircraft and parachuted into action. Meanwhile, the Swallow Sidecar Company – which still existed as an SS subsidiary – took care of the entire requirements of the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force for motorcycle sidecars.

There was, therefore, little time to spare for thinking about new car designs or improving the standing of the company – although Lyons and those close to him were far from inactive on the matter of future designs. In fact, the war proved a major setback for SS Cars, and Lyons was obliged to sell Motor Panels shortly after hostilities ended for the simple reason that SS could not afford to keep it on and expand as they had planned six years earlier. The Swallow Sidecar subsidiary was also sold off in 1945 in order to raise capital.

In the meantime, Standard had announced that they did not wish to resume production of special engines on behalf of SS Cars when the war was over. Fortunately for the smaller company, they were quite prepared to sell the tooling for the 2.5-litre and 3.5-litre 6-cylinder engines, and at an advantageous price. Lyons seized this opportunity with both hands and by the middle of 1945 the redundant Standard tooling had been installed at SS Cars’ Foleshill plant to give the company its very own engine at last. Tooling for the 1.5-litre engines remained with Standard, and that engine soon reappeared in cars from the Triumph marque that Standard had bought as the war drew to a close.

There was one final change at Foleshill before car production resumed over the summer of 1945. The initials SS had taken on negative associations during the war years, as they had been used by Nazi Germany’s notorious frontline combat troops. Clearly, with sour memories of SS brutality lingering in the minds of British citizens, any company bearing those initials was likely to be shunned. So at an extraordinary general meeting in March 1945, William Lyons had his company’s name changed to Jaguar Cars. It was the logical choice and a happy one.


The British economy had been shattered by the immense cost of the war and the government of the day saw as its clear priority putting that economy back on a sound footing. This could only be achieved by a combination of austerity measures to limit consumption at home and an emphasis on foreign trade to earn revenue abroad.

The car makers, in consequence, were encouraged to build cars primarily for export, and the government ensured that they would comply by rationing sheet steel and allocating it in quantity only to those companies that could show a good export performance. For Jaguar, the need to export was an entirely new concept; although a few cars had been exported in the late 1930s, the company had been able to sell all it could produce on the home market and had therefore never gone to the trouble and expense of setting up overseas distribution networks. But now, it had to.

The first post-war Jaguars were visually very similar to their pre-war counterparts. This elegant left-hand-drive Mk IV tourer was photographed for auctioneers H & H when it passed through their hands. Again, discreet indicators have been added for safety – in this case, just inboard of the bumper ends.

Like the majority of other British car manufacturers, Jaguar started production after the war with cars that were essentially little changed from those they had been making when production had been halted in 1940. Standard had agreed to resume supplies of the 1.5-litre engine for the time being (although post-war versions differed from prewar types), and so a full range of three engines was available. The first bodies were all saloons, however; drophead coupé bodies did not become available again until December 1947, and then only with the 6-cylinder engines – and the SS100 open tourer was never revived.

It was typical of Britain’s insularity, even in the second half of the 1940s, that Jaguar should have thought only in terms of right-hand-drive cars for export. The company had never built left-hand-drive cars before the war and it seems to have resisted the idea as long as possible. However, new and promising markets like the USA were only prepared to put up with right-hand-drive cars as a novelty for a limited period. Jaguar exports to the USA started in January 1947 and by August that year the company had been forced to capitulate and start making left-hand-drive models.

Developing the XK Engine

Jaguar had no intention of continuing with its pre-war 1.5-litre, 2.5-litre and 3.5-litre models for much longer. With his original plans for Jaguar’s

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